Project Description

1. What is iEARN?
2. What is The First Peoples' Project?
3. How did it originate?
4. Participating Groups
5. Purpose of The First Peoples' Project
6. Relationship between The First Peoples' Project and the indigenous communities involved
7. Themes for art and writing
8. Sponsorship of The First Peoples' Project
9. Awards and Commendations


iEARN (The International Education and Resource Network) is a non-profit, telecommunications network that links thousands of students and teachers in more than 100 countries in collaborative project work. Communication is via email, electronic conferences and the WWW.

The aim of iEARN is to "assist youth to engage in collaborative telecommunications projects which make a meaningful contribution to the health and welfare of people and the planet"

A wide range of projects operate within the iEARN network including projects on issues such as child exploitation, holocaust/genocide, environmental concerns, endangered species and refugees.

The First Peoples' Project operates within the iEARN network.

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This project links indigenous students around the world in an exchange of art and writing.

The project has two parts:

Art and writing: students complete art work and writing on a predetermined theme. Each community holds an Indigenous Global Art Exhibition, featuring the art work they have created. The art and writing is shared with the other participants through the iEARN forum. Art and writing is also showcased on the project web site.

There is a permanent collection of art, writing and photos from 1995 when this project first started. This collection is currently stored in a school in Australia but will eventually be placed in a museum in Australia as part of their permanent collection.

Pieces of art and writing from each group can be posted to the project coordinator to form part of the permanent collection.

Between 1996 and 2005, students completed art work and writing and in December or January each group sent art work, writing and photos to each of the other participating groups. Each community held an Indigenous Global Art Exhibition, featuring the art work they had received.

Humanitarian Effort: students in the project have worked to raise money to support two communities of indigenous students: Sumu in Nicaragua and Karen in Thailand. Students in Victoria - Australia, New Mexico - U.S.A., Mississippi - U.S.A. and Bangkok - Thailand have raised money to enable the purchase of school supplies, a generator, blankets and the employment of a teacher aide in one of the schools we are working with. Several years ago 70 - 80 blankets were sent to the Karen students from Australia, courtesy of QANTAS. These blankets were produced as the result of another iEARN project.

Students in New Mexico - U.S.A. and Mississippi - U.S.A. have also raised money to enable the purchase of school supplies and a boat motor for Sumu communities in Nicaragua.

Currently we are supporting 10 students from the Karen community with scholarships to help them complete their Secondary education, as well as continuing the support for the teacher aide.

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The project originated, in late 1995, as email and newsgroups discussions held between students and teachers on issues of indigenous history and culture.

The project was further developed through discussions held at the iEARN International Teachers' Conference, Budapest, July, 1996.

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There are more than 1000 students world-wide who have been active in the project, with more than 40 coordinating teachers. Each year the details of current participating groups are sent to all participants.

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Indigenous students have generally been marginalised in the education systems of their nations. The education systems have neither recognized their cultural and historical heritages nor have they provided a vehicle for success for indigenous students.

The First Peoples' Project seeks to give indigenous students a situation where they can engage in high-profile activity which both engages them and creates an environment in their schools where their history, culture and their communities are recognized and valued.

Through creating situations of public recognition, the First Peoples' Project endeavors to provide incentive to indigenous students to achieve excellence in a range of skills, including research, writing and art.

The project seeks to provide a basis upon which the schools and the local indigenous communities can work collaboratively and positively, a situation where the contributions of indigenous community members become an intrinsic part of the school curriculum.

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All activities and initiatives carried out in the First Peoples' Project rely on the endorsement and approval of recognized authority within the relevant indigenous communities. All portrayals of traditional stories, whether in written or visual form, undergoes an approval process with community elders and/or cultural officers of local indigenous organizations. This approval relates to both the accuracy and cultural sensitivity of student work.

Maximum possible use is made of local indigenous people in instruction in approaches to art and writing and in the treatment of traditional and oral histories.

The Project emphasizes collaborative relations between schools and their local indigenous communities, liaising closely with parents, elders and with indigenous organizations.

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1996-1997 - Myself, My Community, My Culture

1997-1998 - Traditional Stories

1998-1999 - Our Community Past and Present

1999-2000 - Honouring the Elders

2000-2001 - Traditional Foods

2001-2002 - Traditional Games and Pastimes

2002-2003 - Traditional Technology

2003-2004 - Traditional Stories

2004 - 2005 - Traditional Foods

2005-2006 - Myself, My Community, My Culture

2006-2007 - Traditional Stories

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Locally, The First Peoples' Project is financially supported by the schools and communities involved in the project.

Globally, The First Peoples' Project has received support for publications (The Meeting Place, calendar, production of video) and postage from the following organizations:

The Australian Education Union
The Australia Foundation for The Arts and Humanities, Australia
The Education Foundation, Australia
Department of Education, Victoria, Australia
Save The Children, U.S.A.
The Asian Education Foundation, Australia
Melbourne Museum, Australia

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The First Peoples' Project has created significance interest world wide and has been cited in educational publications as an example of "best practices" in indigenous education. It has been used by a postgraduate student for her thesis work (Puerto Rico). It has been used by the Bairnsdale Reconciliation Committee, Australia, as an example of a "reconciliation" activity in schools.

Individual country coordinators of The First Peoples' Project are continually called upon to make presentations on the project at local and international conferences.

In Victoria, Australia, The First Peoples' Project has been presented at Information Technology Expos, Victoria Department of Education conferences, Computing in Education Group of Victoria conferences and workshops and at a conference on Koorie Education at Portland, Victoria.

Internationally, The First Peoples' Project has been presented at International conferences in Hungary, Spain, U.S.A., Japan, China, Russia and Indonesia. It has also been presented at conferences and seminars in the countries of the participating groups.

The Melbourne Museum held an exhibition of 52 pieces of art work from the project from February 23 - March 18 2001.

In February 2001, Australia Post issued a prepaid envelope series featuring the art work of 7 Australian students involved in the project.

In November 2001, an Indigenous Games day was held involving more that 400 students in 10 schools in East Gippsland. This was held in conjunction with Youth Sport, Victoria.


The First Peoples' Project has gained the following awards:

The Education Foundation Arts and Humanities Award 1998 (Melbourne, Australia)
The Cable and Wireless Awards: A special issues award 1999 (London, United Kingdom)
The Global Bangemann Challenge Award (Education Category) 1999 (Stockholm, Sweden)

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